Villanova Wildcats' Defensive Struggles Not Yet Behind Them
Teams that play defense like Villanova don't make the Final Four.
That statement is based on recent history, but history can be rewritten. Teams ranked outside of the top 25 in Ken Pomeroy's adjusted defensive efficiency rankings have never made the Final Four in the eight years Pomeroy has provided statistics.
This current Wildcats squad doesn't rank in the top 25 or anywhere near it. Entering the day, Villanova was 46th—which is an improvement from about a month ago, when 'Nova ranked around 90th.
Jay Wright's club's current mark of .927 points per possession allowed should go up after a humiliating performance against Connecticut.
One game after the Huskies scored just 48 points in 63 possessions against Cincinnati at home, Jim Calhoun's squad dropped 84 points in 74 possessions against the 'Cats.
That's one dramatic turnaround for which the Huskies can partially thank a Villanova defense that has no concept of how to play defense without fouling.
Villanova runs 11 players deep. That does mean Wright has the luxury of using up some extra fouls throughout the course of the game because he has incredible depth.
That doesn't mean his players can foul as recklessly as they do. Villanova ranks 320th in the country in allowing free throws per field goal attempt, and that number should shoot up after Monday night as well, after UConn took 44 free throws and 46 field goal attempts.
UConn made it painfully clear what that ratio can do for an offense. The Huskies drilled 35 of those 44 attempts. All 44 of those free throws came in two-shot foul opportunities, which means UConn essentially scored 35 free points on 22 possessions. That equates to 1.62 points per possession allowed, a mark 0.7 ppp higher than Villanova's season rate.
Villanova can certainly still improve on the defensive end. Prior to its Georgetown disaster four games ago, the 'Cats held six consecutive opponents below their season average for offensive efficiency. Then Georgetown happened, where 'Nova actually had a negative FT/FGA rate—which is quite the impressive feat (but in a bad way).
Following the Hoyas' massacre, the Wildcats buckled down and shut down West Virginia and Providence to below their season averages.
Villanova is capable of playing the defense needed to reach the Final Four or even win the national championship, but, for now, the 'Cats haven't showed the ability to do that consistently against tournament-quality teams.
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